Greece sells to Ger­man firm rights to run 14 air­ports

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

ATHENS: Greece has agreed to sell to a Ger­man com­pany the rights to op­er­ate 14 re­gional air­ports. The deal is the first in a wave of pri­va­ti­za­tions the gov­ern­ment had un­til re­cently op­posed but needs to make to qual­ify for bailout loans. The de­ci­sion, which was pub­lished in the gov­ern­ment gazette overnight Mon­day to Tues­day, would hand over the air­ports, in­clud­ing sev­eral on pop­u­lar tourist is­land des­ti­na­tions, to Fra­port AG, which runs Frank­furt Air­port among oth­ers across the world.

The con­ces­sion, worth 1.23 bil­lion eu­ros ($1.37 bil­lion), is the first pri­va­ti­za­tion de­ci­sion taken by the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, who was elected in Jan­uary on prom­ises to re­peal the con­di­tions of Greece's pre­vi­ous two bailouts. The gov­ern­ment had ini­tially vowed to can­cel the coun­try's pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­gram, but Tsipras has been forced to re­nege on his pre-elec­tion prom­ises in or­der to win a deal on a third in­ter­na­tional bailout for Greece, worth 86 bil­lion eu­ros. With­out the res­cue loans, the coun­try would de­fault on its debts and risk be­ing forced out of Europe's joint cur­rency.

Sep­a­rately, the gov­ern­ment slightly re­laxed its re­stric­tions on bank­ing trans­ac­tions, al­low­ing small amounts to be sent abroad for the first time in about two months. The fi­nance min­istry's amend­ments, also pub­lished in the gov­ern­ment gazette, in­clude al­low­ing Greeks to send up to 500 eu­ros ($555) abroad per per­son per month, and al­low­ing up to 8,000 eu­ros per quar­ter to be sent to stu­dents study­ing abroad to cover ac­com­mo­da­tion costs. Greeks can now also open new bank ac­counts that will have no with­drawal rights, in or­der to re­pay loans, so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions or tax debts. The gov­ern­ment re­stricted bank­ing trans­ac­tions in late June to pre­vent a bank run af­ter Tsipras an­nounced a ref­er­en­dum on cred­i­tors' terms for a new bailout.

The gov­ern­ment's U-turn on pre-elec­tion prom­ises to se­cure its new bailout has sparked a re­bel­lion within Tsipras' gov­ern­ing left-wing Syriza party, in­creas­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of early elec­tions be­ing called as early as next month. The prime min­is­ter is widely ex­pected to call a con­fi­dence vote in his gov­ern­ment this week, af­ter dozens of Syriza law­mak­ers voted against him dur­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the new bailout deal in Par­lia­ment last Fri­day. Tsipras was meet­ing with mem­bers of his fi­nan­cial team Tues­day, but the gov­ern­ment has said any an­nounce­ments on po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments will be made af­ter Thurs­day, when Greece must re­pay a Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank debt for which it needs new loans.

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